For Immediate Release: March 21, 2022
On Tuesday, March 22, 2022, Jane Doe Inc., the Massachusetts Coalition Against Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence (JDI), will host its annual Advocacy Day to rally around its legislative and budget priorities to address sexual and domestic violence in the Commonwealth.
The virtual program will include remarks by Representative Natalie Blais along with advocates from JDI coalition member programs, a survivor speaker who will share her experiences related to court abuse, and Andrea James Founder and Executive Director of the National Council For Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls.
Hema Sarang-Sieminski, JDI’s Policy Director, said, “We will gather to impress upon the Massachusetts Legislature the opportunity they have to make significant and effective change that will support survivors throughout the Commonwealth.”
JDI’s priorities continue to include the Healthy Youth Act, Language Access and Inclusion Act and Safe Communities Act, and Employment Protections for Victims of Abusive Behavior. The Advocacy Day program will focus on these three items:
#1: Passing the Prison Moratorium Bill. This legislation would put a 5 year pause on the construction of any new prisons or jails in Massachusetts. Nearly 60% of people in women’s prison nationwide have a history of physical or sexual abuse before being incarcerated with some reports indicating even higher levels of victimization. The disparate impact on Black and Brown women is also well documented. JDI is supporting this legislation in part because far too often, the necessity of prisons, jails, and carceral approaches is uplifted in the name of survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence. Yet the realities of women in prison is a demographic that is profoundly overrepresented by those who have survived sexual assault, domestic violence, or trafficking prior to incarceration.
#2: Funding sexual and domestic violence services, including passing the VOCA Bridge to ensure services and resources for survivors across our Commonwealth are maintained. VOCA (Victims of Crime Act) funding comes to Massachusetts programs from the federal government via the Crime Victims Fund. In recent years, this Fund has been dramatically reduced and now Massachusetts VOCA programs are facing a cut in VOCA funding. The good news is that Congress recently passed the VOCA Fix legislation which will increase deposits into the Fund. Unfortunately, it will take 3 years for the Fund to be replenished. During those three years, VOCA programs will receive a cut in funding unless Massachusetts acts to fill that gap.
#3: Advocating to close gaps in our justice systems for survivors because we believe that the remedies offered by our court systems can be an important step towards safety for many survivors. We will highlight a few different issues including abusive litigation or “court abuse”, the inclusion of coercive control into our 209A statute, and the need for civil legal remedies in addressing the harm of non-consensual sharing of explicit visual material. This session, JDI worked with our partners at the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute to craft legislation to help survivors thrive and to provide Judges and the court system with the tools to recognize and prevent court abuse. JDI also worked with advocates to craft proposed legislation that would add the harm of “image based sexual assault” or non-consensual sharing of explicit visual material to our 258E protection order statute.
Hundreds of advocates and supporters are expected to participate in the day’s activities. JDI staff and others will be available for comment. To view, please register with this link: https://us06web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZwkd-iqqDopEtbC_B9HtckN7Xk6Ku0XKWo2
Please contact Toni Troop, JDI’s Director of Communications and Development, for more information and to arrange interviews: 617-212-7571 (cell) or firstname.lastname@example.org.